Eat An Apple For Stroke Prevention
September 16, 2011

Eat An Apple For Stroke Prevention


You may have heard the old saying that ℠an apple a day keeps the doctor away,´ but did you know that an apple a day, and perhaps a pear a day, may keep strokes away?

According to a Dutch study, published in ℠Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association,´ researchers suggest that eating lots of fruits and vegetables with white flesh may protect against stroke.

While studies in the past have linked high consumption of fruits and vegetables with lower stroke risk, the new research is the first to examine fruits and vegetable color groups with stroke.

Many nutritionists now believe that eating just one apple or pear a day could cut down the risk of stroke by as much as 50 percent. These fruit´s are good examples of white-fleshed fruit, and are important because they contain large amounts of a plant compound known as quercetin.

Quercetin has been shown to reduce inflammation, which is relevant because inflammation is linked to hardening of the arteries (cardiovascular disease).

For their study, researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands studied 20,069 adults with an average age of 41. The participants were free of cardiovascular diseases at the start of the study and completed a 178-item food frequency questionnaire for the previous year.

They found that those who ate more white-fleshed fruit and vegetables were less likely to suffer a stroke over 10 years. The stroke risk decreased by nine percent for every 25 grams (one ounce) of apple or pear eaten daily. Given that an average-sized apple or pear weighs approximately 125 grams, eating just one fruit per day would reduce stroke risk by as much as 45 percent.

“To prevent stroke, it may be useful to consume considerable amounts of white fruits and vegetables,” said Linda Oude Griep, lead author of the study. “For example, eating one apple a day is an easy way to increase white fruits and vegetable intake.”

“However, other fruits and vegetable color groups may protect against other chronic diseases. Therefore, it remains of importance to consume a lot of fruits and vegetables,” she said.

If quercetin is the active compound when it comes to reduction of stroke risk, then there are many other fruits and vegetables, some not white-fleshed, that contain lots of it as well, she added. Raspberries, tomatoes, red grapes and broccoli are all good sources of quercetin.

During the 10-year follow-up, 233 strokes were documented. Green, orange/yellow and red/purple fruits and veggies were not related to stroke. However, the risk of stroke incidence was 52 percent lower for people with an increased intake of white fruits and vegetables compared with a lower intake.

Dr Heike Wersching from Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at Münster University in Germany said the results could be “due to a generally healthier lifestyle of individuals consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.”

Both apples and pears are high in dietary fiber. Other foods in the white-flesh category include bananas, cauliflower, chicory and cucumbers. Potatoes, although containing white flesh, are considered a starch and are generally not associated with improved health.

Stroke is the third largest cause of death in England and Wales, according to The Stroke Association. Those countries account for 53,000 stroke deaths annually. As many as 150,000 people have a stroke every year in Britain.

Dr Sharlin Ahmed, from The Stroke Association, said the main message from the report was that eating fruit and vegetables was good at reducing stroke risk - whatever the color of it is. “We all know that eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg is good for our health. It´s interesting to see that fruit and vegetables with white flesh, such as apples and pears, could reduce a person´s stroke risk more so than others.”

“However, this should not deter people from eating other colors of fruit and veg as they all have health benefits and remain an important part of a stable diet,” he told The Telegraph. “A lot more research is needed before the color of our groceries alone is used to determine what health benefits they may have.”

“Everyone can reduce their risk of stroke by eating a healthy balanced diet that is low in saturated fat and salt, exercising regularly and ensuring that your blood pressure is checked and kept under control,” Ahmed noted.

US federal dietary guidelines include using color to assign nutritional value to fruits and vegetables. The US Preventive Health Services Taskforce recommends selecting each day vegetables from five groups: dark green, red/orange, legume, starchy, and other vegetables.

Oude Griep said further research is necessary before the results are adopted into everyday practice. “It may be too early for physicians to advise patients to change their dietary habits based on these initial findings,” she said.

An accompanying editorial with the study notes that the findings should be taken with caution because food frequency questionnaires are not always reliable. 


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